Often the first stop for northbound passengers on Inside Passage cruises, Ketchikan is a small and historic fishing town situated along the western edge of lush Revillagigedo Island. Passengers on Ketchikan cruises will find a frontier settlement tucked within the breach of the enormous Tongass National Rainforest, where wildlife including bald eagles, brown bears, and moose thrive among old-growth spruce. Even before the first outside settlers arrived, though, the area was home to a diverse group of native peoples whose legacy is prominently visible in the form of the intricate and numerous totems that still inhabit Ketchikan.
Important for guests on Ketchikan cruises, this port town is home to some of the most gorgeous and adventurous cruise excursions Alaska has to offer. Perhaps one of the most iconic cruise excursions Alaska visitors will find, for example, is Misty Fjords Flightseeing, which allows adventurers to experience the isolated and magnificent Misty Fjords Monument via Alaska-classic floatplane. Ketchikan is home, too, to arguably one of the most popular cruise excursions Alaska offers: Deadliest Catch fans inbound on Ketchikan cruises will be delighted to find a town frequently populated by the daring Bering Sea fishermen that seasonally battle the high seas in search of King and Dungeness Crab.
Ketchikan, it’s safe to say, has something for everyone!
Misty Fjords National Monument
Average July Temperature (degrees farenheit)
Acres in Misty Fjords National Monument
Why I Love Ketchikan
“‘Charming’ is the word I use to describe Ketchikan. This quaint town has so much to offer – rich culture, fantastic art displays, impressive restaurants, and absolutely breathtaking scenery. My favorite Ketchikan tour would have to be a tie between the Misty Fjords Flightseeing with its incredible views, and the Backcountry Zodiac Expedition for a ton of fun on the water!”
How to Get Around Ketchikan
All of our excursions provide roundtrip transportation from the cruise ship docks. Ketchikan is easily walkable, and also has a great bus system with two main lines: The Green Line runs from downtown and then north past the airport ferry, and The Silver Line heads south past Saxman Village to Rotary Beach and north all the way past Totem Bight State Park. There’s also a free 20-minute downtown shuttle loop that goes from Berth 4 of the cruise-ship dock to the Totem Heritage Center. Additionally, Ketchikan has a taxi service as well as Uber.
In Ketchikan, docks are referred to as berths. The cruise ship berths are numbered sequentially from South to North along the downtown waterfront, and all berths are within walking distance to town with a pier that’s less than a mile long.
- Berth 1 – Furthest South berth.
- Berth 2 – The majority of tours pickup at this berth, which is located right across from the Visitor’s Bureau, rain gauge, and “The Rock” bronze statue.
- Berth 3 – Near the tunnel and a secondary visitor’s center.
- Berth 4 – Furthest North berth.
- Creek Street – Creek Street is a boardwalk mounted on stilts built over Ketchikan Creek. In the early 1900s, it was a Red Light District where gold miners and fisherman came to drink and visit the brothels. Now, it’s home to boutique shops and tasteful art galleries. In July through August during the salmon run, Ketchikan Creek is occupied by thousands of salmon as they journey upstream to spawn. The bridge at the end of the creek overlooks a waterfall with a fish ladder which helps the fish negotiate the falls, and is a great place to watch as they leap across pools and make their way upstream.
- Ketchikan Visitor’s Bureau – The KVB is stationed on Berth 2 and is a non-profit organization responsible for the development and implementation of marketing activities to promote Ketchikan as a visitor destination and meetings location. Additionally, the KVB provides visitor information and services to travelers to help them plan and make the most of their visit.
- The Rock – This bronze statue sits right next to the Ketchikan Visitor’s Bureau at Berth 2. The Rock is a monument to Ketchikan’s heritage and tells the story of how Alaska’s First City came to be. The seven figures represent a fisherman, a minor, a logger, a bush pilot, a frontierswoman, a native drummer, and Chief Johnson – a Tlingit whose people were the first to make their home in SE Alaska.
- Southeast Alaska Discovery Center – Explore the unique natural and cultural history of the Tongass National Forest as you walk into a recreated temperate rainforest and browse the exhibit hall featuring Southeast Alaska’s ecosystems and native traditions. Check out the spotting scope pointed at Deer Mountain for a chance to view Mountain Goats, or the underwater cameras in Ketchikan Creek during the salmon run.
- Tongass Historical Museum – This museum features a rare collection of historical Alaska Native artifacts that tell the tale of Ketchikan’s fishing industry. Make sure to check out the observation platform that overlooks the Ketchikan Creek waterfall.
- Totem Heritage Center – This museum provides the opportunity to learn about and practice Native arts to inspire cultural understanding. Housing over a dozen century-old totem poles, the center offers an impressive display while preserving the artistic traditions of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian peoples that created these magnificent works of art.
- Saxman Totem Village – The 25 totems here are authentic replicas of original poles that were left in abandoned villages as Native Alaskans moved into more populated cities. Among them is a replica of the Lincoln Pole, carved in 1883 to commemorate the first sighting of white people. You can wander around the park on your own, or take the Rainforest Family Adventure Tour which includes a stop at the Saxman Totem Village!
- Totem Bight State Park – When Alaskan Natives moved out of Ketchikan in search of work, the totem poles they left behind were overgrown by forests and eroded by weather. In 1938, the US Forest Services employed experienced native carvers to refurbish fourteen historic poles. At Totem Bight State Park you can see the fantastic results of their work, together with a model native village called Mud Bight, a colorful community house, and a viewing deck overlooking the Tongass Narrows.
- Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary – This 40-acre rainforest reserve includes tall stands of spruce, hemlock, and cedar trees with a forest floor saturated with mosses, wildflowers, and a variety of berries. The Wildlife Sanctuary & Eagle Center is located at picturesque Herring Cove where you’ll embark on a naturalist-led walk (with the chance of spotting bears), visit a raptor center and old sawmill, and see a working Alaska Native totem-carving house.
- Potlatch Totem Park – Built on the old fishing grounds of Tlingit Natives right next door to Totem Bight State Park. Home to a dozen impressive totems, one of which is 42ft high, there are also five beautiful tribal houses and an on-site carver who can be seen working on a totem in the carving shed.
- Dolly’s House Museum – The green “dollhouse” on Creek Street is a chance to tour the most famous brothel from Ketchikan’s Red Light District days. Featuring antiques, old photographs, secret caches including a trapdoor for bootleg whiskey, and a video history of the famous madam, Dolly Arthur. The brothel was shut down in 1954, and the space is now locally owned and operated by a lifelong Ketchikan resident who takes great pride in being able to offer this unique and historic video narrated tour that looks back into Ketchikan’s infamous past.
Below, we’ve listed some of our top favorites! But for more information, check out our blog post on Ketchikan’s best restaurants.
- Bar Harbor Restaurant – $$ Seafood
- Burger Queen – $$ Burgers
- Annabelle’s – $$ Seafood, American
- Alaska Fish House – $$ Seafood
- Sweet Mermaids – $ Breakfast & Brunch
- New York Cafe – $$ Cafe, Seafood, American
- Fat Stan’s Sports Bar & Pizzeria – $$ Pizza, Sandwiches
- Chico’s Mexican Restaurant – $$ Mexican
- Cape Fox Lodge – $$ American
Here’s a little extra information on some of our favorite spots!
- Alaska Fish House – Look no further if you want fresh, delicious seafood! Located just a short walk away from the cruise ship docks, there can be long lines at the door as this spot is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. Their menu features famed smoked salmon chowder, Dungeness and King crab, as well as burgers and fish tacos.
- Burger Queen – Quoted “the best burger I’ve ever had” by locals and visitors, don’t be fooled by the modest building that’s located just after the bridge, north of berth 3. They take their time cooking their burgers, so keep that in mind as you decide which milkshake and side to choose.
- New York Café – Located next to the historic Creek Street, this cozy café offers a lot more than just creative and delicious breakfast food. They also serve lunch and dinner that features fresh, local seafood as well as thoughtful American and Mediterranean dishes with vegetarian options. Also offered is a nice selection of beer and wine.
Don’t forget to stop for a brew!
- Bawden Street Brewing – Industrial style brewery and tasting room located in the heart of downtown Ketchikan. This brewery opened in 2017 and specializes in ales, saisons, and sours.